July 12, 2002 Features & Images » Feature Story

Feature - A path through the pain 

Imagine a pain so intense that nothing can relieve it. It isn’t a physical pain, it is an emotional anguish which takes over your being. You lose sight of everything good in the world and in yourself. You can’t reach out to those you love because you are so lost in the pain. There doesn’t seem to be a way out. You just want the pain to stop. You will do anything – if only the pain will cease.

This is the kind of pain which leads a young person to consider suicide.

There are many different reasons why they might be feeling this sort of pain, but there is one thing all suicides have in common. A person who attempts suicide is trying to end the pain, and they see death as their only choice. It is important as a society that we help these young people see that they have other choices. There is a path through the pain.

But many young people aren’t finding the path. Currently in Canada, suicide is the number two cause of death among young people aged 15-24. And it is the leading cause of death among First Nations and gay or bisexual youth. Most youth (63 per cent) will seriously consider suicide before graduating from secondary school. One quarter will devise a suicide plan and one in seven will make a suicide attempt.

Kerry Dennehy of Whistler knows all about the pain of suicide. His son, Kelty, took his life last spring. Kelty was a bright, well-loved, successful boy, but he also suffered from depression. And it was this struggle with depression and the emotional anguish it caused which ultimately led Kelty to take his life.

Dennehy says everything happened very quickly. "We knew he was depressed, but he spiralled down in such a short time. He had only been diagnosed with depression two months before his death."

Since Kelty’s death, his parents have started a non-profit foundation to help educate people about the problem of youth suicide and, in particular, the impact of depression ( www.thekeltyfoundation.org ) and they are working closely with Whistler Secondary School to educate students about this issue.

"It’s as if there is a taboo around the subject of suicide," says Dennehy, "but we wanted to talk about it. And we want to warn people about the insidious nature of depression."

Dennehy also admits, with a great deal of sadness, that if he had known more about suicide and depression, things might have turned out differently.

Many people who commit suicide have a history of mental or emotional problems. It is estimated that 90 per cent of adolescent suicide victims are suffering from at least one diagnosable brain-based disorder, including depression and substance abuse. Dr. Steven Holliday, the director of Mental Health Services for the Sea to Sky Corridor, says he prefers the term "brain-based disorders" because there is such a stigma around the term "mental illness."

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